History behind the Calderdale church featured in Gentleman Jack

St Peter's church, Sowerby
St Peter's church, Sowerby

A week on from the final episode of BBC One's Gentleman Jack and many landmarks and locations in Calderdale are preparing for an influx of visitors over the summer.

One of the locations featured in the recent series on the life of Halifax diarist Anne Lister was St Peter's Church in Sowerby.

Inside of the church back in the 1960s

Inside of the church back in the 1960s

Read: Gentleman Jack filming locations - Calderdale spots used in Anne Lister drama
Jean Illingworth shares details of the church's history and why it was an appropriate choice for the programme:

"The interior of St Peter’s Church, Sowerby was featured in the television series of one of the episodes of “Gentleman Jack” by Sally Wainwright. As a former resident of this area, Sally has promoted and used our locality for her plays, proving an added benefit for tourism to Calderdale.

"The “wedding” taking place in St Peter’s was meant to be taking place in a church in London. Recorded as “one of the finest Georgian churches outside London” it was appropriate for St Peter’s to be chosen as a venue to illustrate this.

"St Peter’s is a Grade I Listed building and the third church to stand within the graveyard area, the first church dating back to 1572.

"Built in 1762 by Halifax stonemason John Wilson the design is based on William Etty’s Holy Trinity Church in Leeds. The tower was added later in 1781. The cost of the church was £2,909 -12 shillings - 8d ¾ farthings, it opened for worship on January 3 1763.

"The life-size seated statue of Archbishop Tillotson greets you on entering the building – created by Joseph Wilson, the royal statuary c.1796. John Tillotson was born in 1630 at Haugh End, Sowerby (also filmed for “Gentleman Jack”) He became a noted student and a powerful preacher. He was Archbishop of Canterbury for four years during the reign of William & Mary. He married one of Cromwell’s nieces, Elizabeth French.

"The sculptor’s original figure was at one time in the entrance to Field House, Dean Lane. It was sold along with the house contents in 1985, and is now in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

"The striking interior has two rows of huge Corinthian columns leading to the East end of the church. The stunning rococo plasterwork was created by Giuseppe Cortese in 1766 at a cost of £31-11 shillings.

"The Italian stuccatore decorated many buildings and fine houses throughout Yorkshire, including Bankfield Museum and Somerset House locally. The central Venetian window is flanked by figures of Moses and Christ leaning slightly forward from their tabernacle frames and a vast spreading Royal Arms with the lion and the unicorn balancing on scrolls - raising their heads high to the frieze – “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” AND THE George 111’s cypher GR.

"The interior photographs were sent to me by Alan Crossley an ex Sowerby Bridge man who now lives in York. Alan was one of the youngest Church wardens in the Diocese of Wakefield at St Peter’s in Sowerby from 1965 when he was eighteen years old – to March 1974 when he was married at the church to a former organist at Tuel Lane Methodist Church – Miss Judith Ann Whiteley.

"Alan was also leader of the 24th Halifax (Tuel Lane) Methodist) Scouts. The couple moved to Pellon.

"The man next to the Rev Bill Gibson (1966-1987) is Albert Sutcliffe; he was the Acolyte - the main helper at services in the church. He was also the Crucifer or Cross Bearer and the Chief Server. The boys in the pic are Servers (not choir boys).

"The church will be open to the public during Heritage Week, September 13 to 33.

"This imposing building is well worth a visit."

Read: Sally Wainwright confirms who will return in Last Tango in Halifax series five